There’s a line from the 80’s Kevin Costner flick “Field of Dreams” that has outlived the movie: “If you build it, they will come”. Sadly it seldom works that way in real life, and almost never in eLearning.
Even before you start your eLearning business you have to think of your target audience. And after you’re done with writing your courses it’s time to market them, that is, if you want people to know about them.
In time, you’ll learn that to run a successful eLearning business you’ll have to wear many hats (or hire the right people to do the wearing). Here are a few tips to help you wear your hats and sell your eLearning courses online.
Selling Courses Online Like A Pro: The Tips
If you’re gonna sell your courses online, then these tips should be your own little Bible. Let’s start:
1. Scratch an itch
If you want to create a business, begin by considering what would attract enough customers to sustain it.
Your courses should solve a real problem (“scratch an itch”) that people have. Learning english, learning the guitar or learning business administration are actual things people pay for.
Sure, you might like Latin and want to offer courses for it but there’s a reason it’s called a dead language: not even zombies speak it. It would thus be unwise to start an eLearning business based on selling Latin courses to the masses.
Similarly, a subject that millions enjoy but nobody would pay to learn is also a no-no.
That doesn’t mean you should stick to what everybody else offers or to a few “safe” options. Just that there has to be a market willing to pay for the kind of courses you want to offer. Which brings us to our next tip:
2. Find a niche
There are two ways to succeed in a market. Either offer something everybody wants and many sell, or offer something fewer people want but only a tiny number of business sell it. McDonalds does the first. Ferrari does the second.
If you go for this then offering an obscure course might not be a bad idea, as long as there are enough people willing to enroll for it and there’s little competition.
Such small and specialized markets are called “niches”, and if you decide to cater to one, you’ll need to know it well.
Studying such a market is usually easy, because there are fewer competitors you have to check. By the same token, however, those that do exist might be too entrenched and command such a large percentage of the market that you will need to have a really compelling offer (quality or price wise) to break into it. Which brings us to our next tip:
3. Create your courses with your customers in mind
Before you sell your courses online, you need to create them!
Of course you always have to create eLearning courses with your learners in mind. But if you’re selling courses (as opposed to doing enterprise training for example), you’ll also have to think of your learners as customers.
Enterprise training is “easier” in this regard, as employees can (and usually are) forced to go through their courses. Your learners, on the other hand, are there by choice, and can leave whenever they want.
One important rule is to neither bore them nor discourage them with difficult to follow lessons. Bored and discouraged learners seldom renew their subscriptions.
Try to make your courses fun and rewarding to follow, and try to have the appropriate learning pace for your audience and its age, prior skills and knowledge level, and time availability. Which brings us to our next tip:
4. Be flexible
Whether you cater to a mass market or a smaller niche market, you will get the best results by offering a flexible eLearning curriculum and multiple training options.
After all flexibility and adaptability to particular needs is supposed to be a core advantage of eLearning compared to traditional classroom based training.
Since your learners might be in different timezones or study at home after work, try to offer several date and time options for any real-time course activity (e.g. teleconferences, due dates for homework, etc), so that everybody can fit their schedule around them.
Offer courses in several “packages”, allowing your learners to pick the one that works for them depending on their skills and prior experience.
Listen to your learners’ complaints and remarks and adapt your courses accordingly if you see a common pattern. Don’t see their criticism defensively; what they really do is help you market-optimize your business. Which brings us to our next tip:
5. Market the hell out of it
You can’t avoid it. Heck, Coca Cola has to spend millions every year, and they are the most recognizable brand on earth.
Don’t be afraid to be social. Embrace blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc to your advantage. These are the places your potential learners are. Be there too. Marketing online courses with no prospects around wouldn’t be a huge success, don’t you think?
That said, avoid scams like paying “black hat SEO” guys to make your eLearning portal #1 in Google. You might as well wire your money directly to that troubled Nigerian prince. The only way to get your name out and rank high in search engines is to offer quality content regularly.
Find out the best places to advertise and market your business depending on your market. If, for example, you sell guitar lessons, ads in magazines like “Guitar World” or “Rolling Stone” will get you more learners than one in the New York Times or The Sun, even if more people read the latter. Follow your target audience.
However, there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget about when it comes to marketing training courses: Don’t use marketing as a facade to lure people to a poor experience. You have to have a solid presence at all levels and keep your branding consistent throughout. Don’t pay to have great TV ads and then greet people coming to check your eLearning service with a lousy web presence and an ugly logo.
How To Sell Your eLearning Courses Online 101
Still wondering how to sell your training courses?
Of course, running an eLearning portal is not unlike running any other business. You need to find your niche, solve a real problem people have, cater to your customer needs, be flexible, and market the hell out of your product. Follow these tips and you’ll see your courses selling like hotcakes!
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